Yesterday was exciting! The plan was to drive to OKC (neighboring city, about 1.5 hours away) to hang with some friends and get very, very drunk, grab a hotel and head home in the morning.
That did happen, but first George’s Renegade broke down.
Yes, the newest car in our fleet broke down.
On the highway.
I was packing when I get a mildly panicked phone call that the Jeep had broken down on the highway. He’d managed to get it to an offramp, but was now blocking a lane and needed assistance.
Cool. Cool. Cool.
The way George describes it, the car just lost power. It felt like someone had unplugged the throttle. Unfortunately that isn’t an unusual feeling in that car, so he wasted precious moment and, more importantly, MPHs before putting it in neutral and trying to get off the highway, so while he did make it to an exit, he didn’t make it very far.
Of course I had, just four hours previous, put the Land Rover in storage so any hopes of flat towing him out of the situation was out. I grabbed a socket set and a work light and hit the road to see how I could help.
After initially going to the wrong intersection I show up and yup... Thar be a broken Fiat.
He tried starting it but to no avail. The engine sounded either like it was missing or like it was out of gas. Hard to tell, tbh. Allegedly he had 1/8th of a tank when it cut out, but with the Zippo Jeep decided would be a reasonably sized tank on that car it 1/8 of a tank is like... 1.5 gallons. Not a large margin of error.
As he’d had some battery troubles a couple months ago we went ahead and tried jumping it. This was somewhat ironic given that a thing I frequently shout at clouds about is people who break down and think jumper cables will fix it... somehow. Look... if the car was running and the alternator was working, you shouldn’t be able to have a problem for which jumping the car is going to be the solution.
But, again, we tried anyway.
Unfortunately motorists in 2020 being what they are, at this point the Jeep was causing quite a few traffic problems. Even though it was clearly broken down with its hazards on, people were still pulling up behind him and getting confused when he didn’t move. We were going to try pushing the car through the intersection and into a closed lane just beyond, but it was at this point the Jeep became even more Italian. The shift lock wouldn’t let him get into neutral. Eventually he got it worked out through some arcane ritual involving shutting doors and stuff, but then the electric parking brake wouldn’t release no matter what he did.
George called AAA. I called the cops.
Lucking TPD (Tulsa Police) showed up quick and were pretty jovial about the whole thing. They did get pretty testy about the people that started queuing up BEHIND THE COP CAR WITH ALL ITS LIGHTS ON, because, again, people have no situational awareness.
Even better, with my car parked at the intersection and his also there, we managed to cause the light to go into some sort of failsafe default where it just didn’t turn the light green for the on-ramp. The cops started directing traffic right as another motorist broke down in the adjacent intersection, because apparently we’re now in the Bermuda triangle. Two cars and a traffic light down, what else could go wrong?
Well... not a ton more.
Someone almost hit one of the cops directing traffic. That was fun.
A Domino’s delivery driver just fucking... went, even with the officer in a high visibility vest, shining his flashlight telling him to stop. The cop got out of the way at the last second, but we actually thought he got clipped for a second.
After that the cops were really agitated and started shouting at people, which is.... somewhat understandable. That was fun too...
Then a different Domino’s delivery driver blew through a red light while the cops were directing him to stop. No hesitation, no braking, just going.
Which is odd because this hurry to get pizzas places is not what I’ve come to expect from Domino’s delivery...
ANYWAY! Luckily it was around this time everything started to resolve. The owner of the other broken down truck returned with gas for his car, which is apparently what it needed, the tow truck showed up, and the city utility guys showed up to take a look at the light. As we tried to load up the Jeep onto the flatbed. the automotive gods smiled on us and the Jeep not only let itself be shifted into neutral, but also allowed the parking brake to be released!
Praise be to Jibbers!
At this point it was 7:30, so we’d been trying to call the dealer for the last 15 minutes to let them know we’d be coming in with a broken Jeep. Even though they didn’t close until 8, apparently picking up the phone wasn’t a priority. Presumably without prior warning they’d be locked and blocked by the time we got there so we might be dropping it on the street and leaving it there until Monday.
We decided to have the Jeep towed to my Volvo shop instead. I knew we could get into their lot and they’re close to the Jeep dealer and a couple other independent shops I like. I texted the owners and let them know we’d be incoming and with the Jeep on the tow truck went home to grab more tools and some fresh gas.
The cops, on the other hand, left the light to the city guys and were on their way to Domino’s to make it rain tickets on delivery drivers.
After the Jeep got unloaded put 5 gallons of gas in and hooked the now very dead Jeep battery up to my rental. After letting it charge for a bit we tried starting it...
And of course it started right up without a care in the world.
I mean, it sounded like shit but the 2.4L in that car always sounds like shit, so it hard to tell if it sounds more like shit than usual.
Not wanting to risk driving back, we left the car there and headed to OKC, only three hours later than we’d meant to.
Drunkenness completed and breakfast acquired, we headed back to Tulsa.
The plan today was to grab a new battery, throw that in, and take surface streets home. Then I might suggest taking off the engine cover and seeing if hosing it down causes a stall under controlled conditions. Not the best plan, but it is the plan we had.
We picked up the battery, George deciding to splurge and buy a yellow top, and headed to the Volvo shop. There, for grins, he tried starting the Renegade.
And of course it started right up.
Battery was a little sad and the engine was at high idle because of that, but otherwise OK.
Since the Jeep battery swap is not straightforward, we decided to risk driving it back, which was thankfully uneventful. The only real thing of note was it was running a little lumpy at idle. To me it sounded like maybe it was missing a bit?
On a whim, he pulled the codes and, sure enough, it had a pre-code for cylinder #1 misfire.
We pulled the coil pack and didn’t really see anything of note, but it did smell... burnt. For better or worse there was no sign of water having been around the coils either.
We pulled the plug and it looked... OK. A little ashy and it had a brown ring around it on the outside that I’d never seen before. Also the gap seemed... big. We pulled some of the other plugs and they looked less ashy, but all had that brown ring and an inconsistent gap.
A little googling and as it turns out the 2.4 Multiair is sort of known for this. The 100,000 mile spark plugs can last as little as 20,000 miles. What is worse is the brown ring is the compression seal failing, which I didn’t even know was an option, and the burnt smell on the coil boot is combustion gasses from the engine getting out. It can get so bad it fouls the coils necessitating replacement.
All of which is happening up to 80,000 miles before the spark plugs are supposed to be changed.
Furthermore people have found just random plug gaps and even cross-threaded plugs from the factory.
Ok, so new spark plugs it is and hope the coils are OK.
While we wait on parts, George went ahead and put in the new battery. I gotta say... that was a lot of dicking around to remove a battery. Many screws, bolts, retaining straps, clips, etc...
Then we went to dinner and picked up the plugs. I checked the gaps and they were all about 0.042" with the spec being 0.047" so.... good enough. I also measured the old ones and they ranged from 0.030" to 0.061".
From the factory.
We winged in the new plugs and took the car for a spin.
It was.... better? Ish?
But it will still occasionally start to misfire at idle. Didn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason as to when it starts though.
The initial theory is he ran out of gas and the weak battery then caused all sorts of other issues after sitting with the hazards and headlight on. Still, with 1/8 of a tank showing on the gauge that seems... hard to swallow.
Another theory was driving through standing water (of which there was a lot) at highway speed got water somewhere it shouldn’t be (my theory was coil packs) and caused... issues. This is slightly supported by a flashing check engine light when he was trying to start. That said, we’ve done water in the Jeep before...
Quite a few times, in fact.
But the coils being dusty and showing no signs of ingress also debunks that theory.
After the investigation we’re thinking.... bad gas, bad coil pack, and bad fuel pump in that order.
So.... next steps are to get it a full tank of gas with some de-waterer and see how that goes. If we can get the misfire code to come back we’ll try moving the coils around to see if we can isolate it to a single coil. Or just wing in a full set as they’re not super expensive.
I’ll update as I have more info.
Think good thoughts for the Brave Little Toaster.